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Oral history interview with Richard McLanathan, 1994 Aug. 31

Oral history interview with Richard McLanathan, 1994 Aug. 31

McLanathan, Richard B. K., 1916-1998

Art historian, Author, Arts administrator

Collection Information

Size: 3 wav files (1 hr., 52 min.): digital

Format: Originally recorded on 2 sound cassettes. Reformatted in 2010 as 3 digital wav files. Duration is 1 hrs., 52 min.

Summary: An interview of Richard McLanathan conducted 1994 Aug. 31, by Robert F. Brown, for the Archives of American Art.

McLanathan remembers his childhood in Methuen, Mass. and then Andover, Mass., as son of a mill owner and amateur painter and his wife, a concert pianist, who could not pursue her career because of a heart condition; the frequent presence of formidable aunts and uncles who entertained Episcopal bishops; living in a grand manner in Andover; attendance at a "dame school" there, then at classes given by a retired teacher at Phillips Academy, Andover; the trauma of one year at Phillips Academy with its large classes and severe teachers; happy years at the new Choate School, Wallingford, Conn.

He talks about the drastic effects his father's ruin in the financial crash of 1929 had on his family, and another setback in the 1930s. He remembers attendance at Choate (graduated 1934) and Harvard College (graduated 1938) on scholarships; thriving at Harvard and the encouragement given by many of his professors. He recalls his several years teaching in Manhattan at a small private school and marriage (1942) to Jane Fuller, a prominent designer of knitwear.

McLanathan mentions his disqualification from the military because of flat feet and his teaching in night schools as a form of alternative service; his matriculation (1943) as a graduate student in fine arts at Harvard and detailed characterizations of various professors, such as Chandler Post, Arthur Pope, Paul Sachs, Edward Forbes, and Arthur Kingsley Porter and his wife.

Biographical/Historical Note

Richard B.K. McLanathan (1916-1998) was an art historian, administrator, and writer. McLanathan received a Ph.D from Harvard in 1951. Ass't Curator of Paintings, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1946-1948, and Secretary, 1949-1956; Director, Museum of Art, Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, 1957-1962; Curator of the Art Exhibit of the American National Exhibition, Moscow, Russia, 1959; New York State Council on the Arts,1960-1964; Director, American Association for Museums, 1976-1978; author of numerous publications on art.


This interview is part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and administrators. Additional interview sessions are planned.


Funding for the digital preservation of this interview was provided by a grant from the Save America's Treasures Program of the National Park Service.

Use requires an appointment.

Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Richard McLanathan, 1994 Aug. 31. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.